<EM>Star Wars: The Clone Wars</EM> Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Droid heads fly and so do the wisecracks in Cartoon Network's Star Wars: The Clone Wars. A follow-up to the recent film of the same name, this animated series with kid appeal — premiering Friday, Oct. 3, at 9 pm/ET — is set against an epic battle for the galaxy between the good-guy Jedi Knights and the evil Separatists.

"The dramatic stakes are high," notes supervising director Dave Filoni, "but George Lucas gave us a mandate: Don't forget to make the characters fun." That includes the series' hero, Anakin Skywalker, who, as the future Darth Vader, took a deeply creepy turn in 2005's Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

"A lot of parents couldn't take their younger kids to see Sith because it was so dark," says actor Matt Lanter, who provides the voice of Anakin. "They're thrilled to have Clone Wars." Longtime fans may be drawn to it, too, since the series goes to never-before-seen locales, like Bothawui, home planet to the furry Bothan race mentioned in "Return of the Jedi," and gives screen time to such lesser-known characters as Jedi Master Plo Koon, Captain Rex and the wicked Asajj Ventress.

Can the series overcome the movie's largely negative reviews and disappointing box office? Does it matter? "Ultimately, George is the audience," Filoni says. "When you please the guy who created the very universe you're working in, that's a pretty good measure of success."